Delta variant detected on Capitol Hill prompting recommendation to mask up
By Jessica Dean and Annie Grayer, CNN
(CNN) -- As the Delta variant emerges as the dominant strain of Covid across the country, the Capitol attending physician is warning Congress about the variant's presence on Capitol Hill.
"The Delta variant virus has been detected in Washington, DC and in the Capitol buildings," Capitol Attending Physician Brian Monahan said in a letter obtained by CNN to House members and staff.
Monahan wrote the Delta variant virus "represents a dire health risk to unvaccinated individuals" and reminded members and staff that vaccinations remain available through the Office of the Attending Physician.
Monahan recommended vaccinated House members consider wearing masks as a way to further reduce their risk of being infected, but stopped short of making it a requirement, according to the letter.
"Vaccinated individuals seeking to further reduce their risk of disease, or further reduce potential risk of transmitting disease to vulnerable household members, may consider additional protective actions such as wearing a well-fitted, medical-grade filtration mask when they are in a crowded or interior location," he wrote.
While Monahan acknowledged the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not generally require vaccinated people to wear a mask indoors, "future developments in the coronavirus Delta variant local threat may require the resumption of mask wear for all."
Monahan noted "several vaccinated Congressional staff members" have tested positive. Florida Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan also tested positive after being fully vaccinated. It's unknown if they were infected with the Delta variant.
Texas House Democrats test positive
The letter comes the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office confirmed a fully vaccinated senior spokesperson in the speaker's press office tested positive following contact with a group of Texas Democrats who have traveled to Washington, DC, to break quorum in the Texas Legislature and block a restrictive new voting law.
Six of the Texas lawmakers have now tested positive for Covid since last week. All of them say they were fully vaccinated. The group continues to test daily and, out of an abundance of caution, is now using masks and practicing social distancing beyond even what the CDC recommends, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The group met with a number of high-profile Democrats last week -- including Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Joe Manchin -- while spending a large amount of time on Capitol Hill.
Most of the group's meetings are now being held virtually, according to the source.
So-called breakthrough cases of Covid are rare in fully vaccinated individuals and getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect against hospitalization and death; 99.5% of deaths from Covid are among the unvaccinated, according to the CDC.
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